IRVING, Texas –The NFL has the Pro Bowl, which will be played later this month, along with various All-Pro teams and All-Rookie squads.
At DallasCowboys.com, we've traditionally produced a team made up of players who performed at the highest level against the Cowboys during the 2013.
The Cowboys faced the NFL's leading rusher in LeSean McCoy, along with the obvious favorite for league MVP in Peyton Manning. Neither of them made this list.
Today, we'll break down the offensive unit:
Philip Rivers, SD – The Chargers were the underdogs at home, they were down without half of their starting offensive line and the Qualcomm Stadium crowd seemed to be filled with half Cowboys fans. But none of that mattered to Rivers, who lit up the Cowboys all day, with a 401-yard outing, on 35 of 42 passing with three touchdowns. Rivers controlled the entire game, dissecting the defense with passes to running backs and tight ends and then burned them occasionally with rookie receiver Keenan Allen. Whatever the Cowboys tried defensively, Rivers seemed to have the answer.
Honorable Mention: Drew Brees, NO, Josh McCown, CHI
Adrian Peterson, Minn – With the Vikings struggling at quarterback, they relied heavily on Adrian Peterson and he nearly led his team to a victory. The native Texans returned to his home state and rushed for 140 yards, including an impressive 11-yard touchdown run in which he carried several Cowboys defenders into the end zone. The Vikings had gotten away from giving Peterson the bulk of the carries, but they went back to their workhorse against the Cowboys and nearly pulled out a win.
Matt Forte, CHI – With the cold weather, the big plays to the receivers and the play of backup Josh McCown, it might have been easy to overlook Matt Forte's night. But the Bears tailback still totaled 175 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, including 102 on the ground. He was a difference-maker out of the backfield and a big reason the Bears never punted.
Honorable Mention: Eddie Lacy, GB; Danny Woodhead, SD
Calvin Johnson, DET – The easiest pick on this list. Johnson was an absolute beast, putting together one of the greatest individual performances in NFL history. Johnson caught 14 passes for 329 yards – the most in any four-quarter game in league history. He caught them deep, short, over the middle, down the sideline – really anywhere Matthew Stafford placed the ball. Johnson even had the clutch catch to the 1-yard line that set up Stafford's game-winning sneak in the final seconds.
Pierre Garcon, WASH – After a solid six-catch, 69-yard effort in the first meeting between Dallas and Washington at AT&T Stadium, Garcon went to work against the Cowboys, particularly Brandon Carr in the second game. Garcon had 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. But he was slowed down in the fourth quarter when Orlando Scandrick switched on him and it helped the Cowboys rally for the win.
Andre Holmes, OAK – The former Cowboys WR admitted he was looking forward to this game and it showed. Playing for an injured starter Denarius Moore, Holmes looked every bit like the player the Cowboys hoped he'd be the last two years. He caught seven passes for 136 yards, including several jump-ball plays that had the Raiders in the lead for most of the game.
Honorable Mention: Alshon Jeffrey, CHI, Marques Colston, NO
Antonio Gates, SD –Another easy pick on this list. Gates had 10 passes thrown his way against the Cowboys, and caught all 10. His 56-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter proved to be the backbreaker for the Cowboys. Gates and Philip Rivers looked like old-times for the Chargers fans who hadn't seen a consistent connection between the two in recent years.
Honorable Mention: Julius Thomas, DEN; Andrew Quarless, GB
Offensive Line: [embedded_ad]
D.J. Fluker, OT, SD –One of a few rookies who made this team, Fluker was surrounded by backup players in the Week 4 game with Dallas. Yet, the Chargers only allowed one sack and still had 506 yards of offense. Fluker held his own against DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie.
Trent Williams, OT, WAS –This is his third straight year of making this team. He continues to dominate in the two games against the Cowboys, particularly against DeMarcus Ware. Williams stonewalled Ware all game in the Week 16 matchup in D.C.
Kyle Long, G, CHI –The Bears never punted against the Cowboys and one of the reasons they were able to move the chains all game was the offensive line. Rookie Kyle Long was very impressive in the middle of the Bears' line. He was able to get in space for screen passes to Matt Forte, and kept a clean pocket for backup Josh McCown, who had 348 passing yards despite temperatures that were single-digits at kickoff.
Jahari Evans, G, NO –Another repeat pick on this list, Evans was on an offensive line that dominated the Cowboys, all night. The Saints rushed for 242 yards and produced 625 total yards of offense. Teaming up with guard Ben Grubbs, Evans and the Saints had their way with a Cowboys defense that sorely missed Jason Hatcher.
Jason Kelce, C, PHI–The Eagles obviously won the game that mattered the most against the Cowboys, but their center played well in both games. Sean Lee was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after the November game but recalled Kelce giving him fits all game. In the rematch, Lee was out and Kelce again controlled the Eagles' line, paving the way for LeSean McCoy's 131 rushing yards.
Honorable Mention: OT Jason Peters, PHI; Larry Wofford, G, DET; Kory Lichtensteiger, G, WASH, CIN; Brian de la Puente, C, New Orleans
Matt Prater, DEN – The only kicker to make a last-second field goal to beat the Cowboys, Matt Prater isn't on the list for his 26-yard kick as time expired. But his 50-yarder to tie the game at 41 early in the fourth was a big-time kick. He also made a 48-yarder in the third quarter.
Cordarrelle Patterson, KR, Minn – The Cowboys didn't yield many big returns this year but Patterson's 45-yarder against Dallas was the longest. Patterson, who had four returns for 106 yards in the game, was the only rookie on the AP All-Pro team, listed as a kick returner.
*Coming Wednesday, Part 2 will have the top defensive players against the Cowboys in 2013. *